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Cytokines and Cytokine Profiles in Human Autoimmune Diseases and Animal Models of Autoimmunity

Posted Feb 26 2010 12:00am

By Manfred Kunz and Saleh M. Ibrahim

The precise pathomechanisms of human autoimmune diseases are still poorly understood. However, a deepened understanding of these is urgently needed to improve disease prevention and early detection and guide more specific treatment approaches. In recent years, many new genes and signalling pathways involved in autoimmunity with often overlapping patterns between different disease entities have been detected.

Major contributions were made by experiments using DNA microarray technology, which has been used for the analysis of gene expression patterns in chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, among which were rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, psoriasis, systemic sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, and type-1 diabetes. In systemic lupus erythematosus, a so-called interferon signature has been identified. In psoriasis, researchers found a particular immune signalling cluster.

Moreover the identification of a new subset of inflammatory T cells, so-called Th17 T cells, secreting interleukin (IL)-17 as one of their major cytokines and the identification of the IL-23/IL-17 axis of inflammation regulation, have significantly improved our understanding of autoimmune diseases.

Since a plethora of new treatment approaches using antibodies or small molecule inhibitors specifically targeting cytokines, cellular receptors, or signalling mechanisms has emerged in recent years, more individualized treatment for affected patients may be within reach in the future.

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